Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Major Gridlock Alert -

Avoid, like the plague or swine flu, midtown today!

Thousands will gather at Rockefeller Center in New York City for the 78th Annual Christmas tree lighting ceremonies tonight. Do you really want to be stuck in the middle of Jersey Shore wannabees and bratty little girls who dragged Grandma to the American Girl Store? So once again, I'm giving native New Yorkers a gentle reminder - watch last year's lighting here.



In honor of the Christmas tree lighting - People who feel their electric company doesn't make enough money - Christmas Light Shows








Here's a bonus (early in the season) - Christmas songs on TV talk shows

Mel Torme
on the Merv Griffin Show -




Regis Philbin and Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show -




Betty Hutton - All Star Christmas Show -




Tomorrow is Hanukkah and there are 25 more shopping days until Christmas.

Get your potato graters ready....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Third Annual Christmas video countdown.

The holiday season (for better or worse) is upon us.

Today is - Really Bad Holiday Songs:
(In no particular order)


1.) Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea:



Chris, either speed up and get home or drive off the road and put us all out of our misery.


The Christmas Shoes - Newsong:

In case you need purge music



PS- if your Mom is dying, there are more important things to worry about than buying her new shoes.


3.) Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney:

Sir Paul got a new synthesizer and after a few drinks during a holiday party, this is what he came up with




4.) Any Christmas song processed by Mannheim Steamroller:

This is the music that people who are deeply concerned with the cholera epidemic in Haiti but tweet about the new flavor of free trade coffee Starbucks has, listen to during the holidays.




5.) Macarena Christmas - Los Del Rios:



A song so odious that they won't even play it on the 'all holiday music' radio stations.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Turkey Roasting Hints and Tips

Turkey day is a mere days away. Hopefully you've begun thawing your behemoths (my was frozen harder that Walt Disney.)  Also here's a tip for all cooks - begin drinking today - by Thursday you will develop a wonderful drunken haze that will get you through any emergency.



Do you know that a "frozen" turkey is fresher than a so-called "fresh" turkey? The frozen turkey have been frozen immediately upon preparation (execution.) The so-called fresh turkeys can sit in your store for days. For crisper skin, unwrap the turkey the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 450°F.

Use a shallow roasting pan. Add some roughly chopped onions and carrots to the bottom of the roasting pan. Add about a cup or two of wine (or stock) into the roasting pan. Invest in one of those roasting racks to place you bird on - it will keep it out of the accumulating juices and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the roasting pan.

Do not stuff your turkey ahead of time as harmful bacteria growth could spoil the uncooked turkey. Just before roasting, stuff the body and the neck of the turkey. Do not pack in as the stuffing will expand during cooking. If packed in too tightly, it will be very dense instead of light. You can truss your bird (if you know how.) An easier version is to use the heel of the loaf of bread to cover the opening of the abdomen and tie the legs of the turkey together - this will help with a more even cooking of the stuffing. Cook the remaining stuffing (dressing) in a baking pan.

Before roasting, coat the outside of the turkey with vegetable or olive oil, season with salt and pepper. So your turkey is thawed, brined or not brined, stuffed or not stuffed. Now it's time to get it into the oven. Approximate cooking times listed below are for a whole turkey cooked at 350 °F.

Calculating Cooking Time:
Weight (Pounds) 8 to 12 12 to 14 18 to 20 20 to 24 24 to 30
Unstuffed (hours) 2.75 to 3 3 to 3.75 4.25 to 4.5 4.5 to 5 5 to 5.25
Stuffed (hours) 3 to 3.5 3.5 to 4 4.25 to 4.75 4.75 to 5.25 5.25 to 6.25


To prevent the breast meat from drying out, loosely cover just the breast with a triple thick sheet of aluminum foil, butter on the inside to prevent sticking. Remove after the first hour of roasting so the breast has time to brown and lower the temperature to 350°F.

I have no firm opinion on basting - baste if you enjoy basting every half hour (this will resulting in a slightly longer cooking time as the oven will have to continuously have to come back up to temperature) or baste once an hour (this will result in you worrying about a possible dry turkey. I have two suggestions for that - make more gravy and continually drink during the entire cooking process.)

Never rely on the little plastic thermometer in some turkeys to pop out. If you wait for it, the turkey will overcook. Instead stick an instant read thermometer several inches down through the skin between the thigh and the breast so the tip ends up about an inch above the joint. They turkey is ready when the thermometer reads 165 degrees F.

Let the cooked turkey "rest" after it have been removed from the oven. While the turkey cooks, the juices are forced away from the heat to the middle of the turkey. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes after it is removed from the oven. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the turkey. A moist turkey is easier to carve and tastier too.

If you need your oven to reheat or cook side dishes, it's better to serve the turkey at room temperature with hot gravy than to reheat it. Reheating dries out the meat. The interior of a large turkey will stay quite hot for at least an hour.


Gravy

Ingredients

* 4 cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth or your own, (which would be infinitely better.)
* 2 tablespoons of butter

* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

* Drippings from Turkey roasting pan



Tools

* Large heavy bottom saucepan
* Whisk

* Large wooden spoon

* Sieve

* Unwashed Roasting pan from Turkey

* Medium sized bowl



Directions

Pour out the drippings from roasting tray, set aside.

Place roasting tray over medium heat and add stock. Bring to a boil and scrap bottom of pan, getting all the accumulated brown bits (fond) off the bottom. Lower the heat, occasionally stirring as you continue with the recipe.

Place the large saucepan over medium high heat. Add butter, 2 tablespoons of pan dripping and 1/2 cup of flour to saucepan and whisk until mixture turns a light brown (in about 4 minutes - do not burn.)

Lower heat to medium and slowly whisk the heated stock into the saucepan (straining through sieve.) This is a good time to call someone into the kitchen to lend a hand, i.e, hold the sieve, pouring the stock through the sieve, slowly whisking or making sure you are properly hydrated. Add about 3 cups of the stock and continue cooking until the gravy has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes - if it's a little too thick add a little more stock (add a little more pan drippings.)

Smother everything you eat with it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nearing the Summit - Stuffing (Dressing) - the ties that bind

Kids, don't let anybody fool you - Turkey is merely the excuse to have delicious stuffing. There are those who will make their stuffing with wild rice, oysters, saltines - I am not here to judge. I will merely present to you the stuffing that has been passed along on my mother's side of the family for more that 50 years - so good or bad, it's fed a lot of very hungry people.


Ingredients

* 2-pounds of sweet Italian pork sausage, (about 8 links)
* 1 large onion, finely chopped

* 1 cup finely chopped celery

* 2 cloves of garlic

* 2 tablespoons of olive oil

* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* Freshly ground pepper, to taste

* 1 loaf of cornbread, made from two packages of those little cornbread mixes (
you know which brand you use.)
* 1 loaf of cheap white bread (the type that you could squeeze into a tight little ball, if you did.)
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

* 2 large eggs.
* 1 1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano, thyme and rosemary
* 16 oz. package of white button mushrooms (if you can find cremini, so much the better.)
* 1 1/2-3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or your own(which would be infinitely better.)


Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Large mixing bowl

* Cutting board

* Large skillet
* Large wooden or metal spoon
* Large slotted metal spoon
* A set aside bowl
* Baking Tray


Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

There are a lot of steps to recipe - slow deep breathing. Until you feel that you have mastered this, you may want to forgo any alcohol drinks. If you are preparing this at 5:00 AM, your drinking habits are between you and your god.

The day before you’re preparing your stuffing: place your slices of white bread on the racks of your oven to dry out. (How can you tell if this is the cheap white bread - it tears when you try to spread room temperature peanut butter on it.) They will become lightly toasted (do not toast the bread.) Follow the directions on the back of your corn bread mix to make the loaf (since you are doubling the recipe, add appx 10 minutes to the baking time. Use the old toothpick test to see if the corn bread is done (tooth pick comes out clean when done.) Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread and the dried white bread slices; set aside.

Peel your onion, cut in half and chop. Wash your celery ribs, cut off the very bottom root end and chop. Set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium heat. When it feels warm while waving your hand over the skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over cornbread mixture. (Do not wash out your pan.) Add the various herbs (including the parsley) to the cornbread mixture

I like pork - I'm a proud member of 'Everything taste better with pork' club but you could use a chicken or turkey sausage (I wouldn't- but you could.) Remove the casings from the sausages (Do not think about what sausage casings used to be made of - just discard them.) Put the skillet back over medium heat. Break up the sausage meat into the hot skillet. Sauté until cooked through. Remove the cooked sausage meat from the skillet with the slotted spoon and add to the cornbread mixture. Gently incorporate but do not over mix. Discard the grease (The National Heart Association has insisted that I add this step - if you were to pour the grease into your stuffing mix while no one was looking - who's to know.) DO not wash out your pan.

Clean your mushrooms. Purist will tell you that you must brush the mushrooms dry. "Mushrooms are sponges," they would scream, "No extra moisture!" It's your kitchen, dammit. Put the mushrooms in a colander and rinse them quickly under cold water to remove the dirt. Dry with a paper towel. If the world has not ended, cut off the very tip of the mushrooms and roughly chop the rest (Yes, mushrooms like it rough.) Set aside.

Once again, put the skillet back over medium heat. When it feels warm while waving your hand over the skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet. When the butter melts, add the chopped mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms around in the skillet. They will ooze out a lot of liquid - this is your chance to scrape up all of the delicious crusty stuff that has accumulated at the bottom of your skillet (it's called the fond.) Sauté the mushrooms until browned (about 15 minutes.) Add the mushrooms into the stuffing mixture. Once again, don't wash that skillet.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet and pour over the stuffing. Add 1 1/2 cup of stock to the skillet and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let cool slightly. Add stock to the stuffing mixture, mix well but don't over mix, taste, and add salt, pepper to taste. You may now call someone else into the kitchen to wash the skillet (well, maybe not just yet.)

Beat eggs in your 'set aside' bowl and add into the stuffing mixture, incorporating well but not into a big mush. Look at your mixture and decide if it looks too 'tight' (lumpy or dry). Heat a bit more stock and add to the stuffing until you get a consistency that you like.

If you like stuffing inside your bird (hence the name stuffing) refrigerate this mixture until you are ready to stuff your bird (this will be more stuffing than you need for any bird.). If you are cooking the stuffing outside of the bird, it has magically become dressing - voila. Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes.


Serve with turkey as a side dish.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Carbing up to push toward the Summit Part 3 (Psst - you've probably never eaten it before)



I'm throwing this one in - no one eats Rutabagas. They look weird and you probably have no idea how to cook them. Well, pickles look obscene and you eat them don't you. Rutabagas have a pleasantly bitter taste and have the texture of mashed potatoes. And an added bonus - it's another one of our old cruciferous cousins.

Mashed Rutabagas

Ingredients

* 4 pounds rutabagas (about 6 large), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1/2 cup sour cream

* 6 tablespoons (
3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

* Kosher salt
* 2 cloves of garlic

Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Meat Cleaver

* cutting board
* Peeler

* 1 large heavy bottom stock pot

* 1 wooden (
or metal) spoon
* Potato masher

* Large Skillet

* Colander
* CD -
I'm going with Singles - 45's and Under by Squeeze


Direction

Start the CD


Peel the rutabaga - this is easier said than done. Rutabagas are covered with wax. If you feel comfortable with a knife (perhaps you are an ex-assassin for the CIA or a member of an all girl motorcycle gang - it's not for me to judge.), use the knife to peel away the wax layer then cut off the underlying skin. Otherwise - nut up and use your peeler. Your last resort is buying already peeled and chucked rutabaga for your local gourmet grocer (I'll try not to think badly of you.)

Once peeled, cut into chunks. Again this is easier said than done. Rutabagas are tough little bastards and difficult to cut. I would suggest cutting them in half, with a cleaver or large chef's knife. Then placing the cut side down on the cutting board - it gives you a more stable object to hack up (as opposed to your hand, which should not be cut up.)

Put the chunks and one of the peeled cloves of garlic in your large stock pot and cover with water. Add the salt (as I've discussed before, if you don't want my father-in-law voice ringing in your ear, which would be very bizarre because you probably haven't met him, add enough salt to make the water taste like seawater - without the nasty petrochemical taste.) Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the chucks.

Dance around the kitchen to Squeeze while your waiting for the rutabagas to cook because you know what happens to those watched pots - nothing, you're waiting water boil, geez.

Drain and set aside for a moment.

Wipe your stock pot dry. Add the rutabagas back into the pot and begin to mash with the 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper. Mash until smooth.

Hang on, one more step. Slice the other garlic clove into thin pieces. Melt the remaining butter in the large skillet and briefly sauté the cut garlic in the butter. Add the mashed rutabagas into the skillet and stir occasionally until the rutabagas are bubbling. Take off the heat.

Serve.

NextThe Summit - stuffing and the turkey

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carbing up to push toward the Summit Part 2 (À la recherche du patate douce perdu)



I've mentioned before, a main part of Thanksgiving dinner is the Proustian journey the foods sends you on. For some, it's the Mac and Cheese Aunt Mabel made. For others, it's the giblet gravy that their Grandma made. And for others, it's Candied Sweet Potatoes. So sweet, so sticky, so gooey (for those of you on a diet - look away.)

How can you not love any food that has marshmallows as an ingredient?


Candied Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients

* 6 medium sized sweet potatoes
* 1 cup of brown sugar (
tightly packed)
* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1/4 cup butter

* 1/4 cup orange juice

* 1 cup of mini marshmallows

* Ground cinnamon to taste

* Ground nutmeg to taste



Tools

* Large stockpot
* Large metal spoon

* Sharp utility knife

* Cutting board

* 2 cup measuring cup

* Small mixing bowl

* Kosher salt

* 9x13 inch baking dish


Pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Grease your baking dish (put aside.)

Wash and peel your sweet potatoes. This time, instead of singing along with your favorite album, imagine that you have to do KP duty - lean over the sink, mutter to yourself about how you hate being in the service. For the correct verisimilitude, dangle a Camel from you lip. Hey your peeling potatoes, you have to keep yourself amused somehow.

Slice your potatoes into eighths. Add the sweet potatoes into your pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil sweet potatoes for about 10 to 13 minutes (they should be slightly undercooked.) Drain and put aside.

Mix the salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg (use fresh spices if you can - don't sweat it if you can't) and orange juice in your small mixing bowl (this should form a disgusting sludge - deal with it.) Arrange the pieces of sweet potato in the greased baking dish. Pour (glop) your brown sugar mixture on top of the sweet potatoes and dot with butter.

Place your baking dish in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, basting frequently (don't burn yourself, remember what I've said about hot sugar syrup.)

25 minutes into the cooking, pull the baking dish out of the oven and top with your carefully guarded marshmallows (watch out for those damn kids.) If you don't think that you have enough, add some more. Raise the oven temperature to 425°F and put the dish back in the oven. Continue baking for about 5 minutes or until the marshmallows have turned golden brown.

Serve

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carbing up to push toward the Summit Part 1 (Potatoes)

Some of you have a love/hate relationship with Mashed Potatoes. You might love 'em and you find them the essential part of your feast. You might hate 'em because you think they are so caloric. I think you should find them a convenient delivery device for delicious gravy and be done with the debate.

Here is a fat/ not so fat version of the delicious gravy delivery device.


Mashed Potatoes


Ingredients * 2 1/2 pounds potatoes (about 6 large potatoes, if I'm being forced to choose for you, Russet Potatoes.)
* 8 ounces of sour cream (
or 8 ounces of chicken stock)
* 4 tablespoons butter (
or less)
* Kosher salt

* Pepper
Tools * Sharp utility knife
* Cutting board

* Large stockpot
* Vegetable peeler
* Large spatula

* Potato Masher (
or hand mixer)
* Large wooden spoon

* CD, Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
soundtrack


Directions

Start the CD

Wash your potatoes in the kitchen and sing along with David Byrne - Réalisant mon espoir. Peel and quarter potatoes and keep in cold water until ready to cook (I'm actually going to recommend a peeler - OXO GOOD GRIPS Swivel Peeler - best peeler, no question. Please note: people from OXO, figure out how to contact me for this plug.)

"Oh, heaven, heaven is a place... a place where nothing ever happens..." - a great line from a song and great zen koan, but I digress. In a large pot, the quartered potatoes and 3 tablespoons salt into a gallon and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water have come to a boil, lower the flame to medium high and boil potatoes about 15 to 20 minutes, until soft; a knife should go in with almost no resistance. All things being equal, Life During Wartime should be playing.

While you are boiling your potatoes, you need to search deep within your soul - Are you afraid of fat? If you are making these potatoes for Thanksgiving, you are going all the way, so use the Sour Cream and don't dare use low or no-fat. Have your sour cream and butter out to come to room temperature. If you are looking for a 'lighter' version - we're going with the chicken stock, which you are going to bring to a boil and set aside.

Back to the potatoes - drain potatoes well and return to pot. Using a potato masher, mash hot potatoes and two tablespoons of butter until smooth. Slowly mix in about half of sour cream (or chicken stock), just until blended. Season with salt and pepper for taste and add more of sour cream (or chicken stock) until you reach the consistency you like.

Stop here for fluffy potatoes. If you like a creamy potato, keep stirring potato mixture, using a sturdy spoon to press it against sides and bottom of pot. Mix until dense and thick. If you like whipped potatoes (BTW, I don't) use a hand mixer to mash hot potatoes just until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add all the sour cream (or chicken stock), salt and pepper to taste, mixing in short bursts at medium speed. When light and creamy, stop mixing immediately (potatoes can quickly become sticky).

To keep hot until ready to serve, scrape the mash potatoes out of the pot and into a serving bowl, dot top with some (or all) of the remaining butter, cover tightly and keep in a warm place, like the back of the stove. Potatoes will stay hot for at least 30 minutes.

Enjoy your mid life crisis with Once in a Lifetime - "Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down...



Here's another way to add even more calories - Make a Potato 'Soufflé' with your mashed potatoes (It isn't a real soufflé - we just call it that in our house and since it's my recipe, I get to name it.)

Potato 'Soufflé'

Ingredients

* Mashed potatoes from the previous recipe
* 8 ounces cheese cubed (
my family likes mozzarella for this recipe but you can use almost any type of cheese you like)
* 2 large eggs

* 1 cup of Italian flavored bread crumbs

* 2 tablespoons of softened butter



Tools

* 3 quart soufflé dish
* Large spatula

* Sharp utility knife

* Cutting board

* Small mixing bowl

* Kosher salt

* Baking Tray



Directions

Prepare mash potatoes from recipe above but don't turn them out into a serving bowl (leave them in the pot - why dirty another dish, do you have a cleaning staff?) Remove the top oven rack and place a rack on the bottom 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Beat the eggs and a pinch of salt in the small mixing bowl. Quickly incorporate the beaten eggs into the mashed potatoes (be quick or you'll have scrambled eggs in the potatoes.)

Cut your cheese into dice size pieces. Refrain from playing craps in the kitchen - it's a respectable joint.

Use a butter wrapper or a little piece of parchment paper to keep your hands clean and grease the inside of the soufflé dish with the softened butter. Add the breadcrumbs into the soufflé mold and roll them around to coat the bottom and sides of the mold (this technique is called "chemise"- remember to tell everyone about this. Impress your neighbors). Pour out the remaining breadcrumbs not adhering to the soufflé mold and save (we'll use them later.)

Put a 1/3 of the potato mixture in the mold, lightly pat down to spread out so potatoes are up along the soufflé dish wall. Sprinkle half of the cubed cheese on the potato layer. Add an additional 1/3 of the potato mixture on top of the cheese, once again, spreading out the layer. Again sprinkle the remaining cheese (hold back about 2 tablespoons) on the potato layer. Spread out the remaining potato mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs on the top of the soufflé. You could stop here and refrigerate the soufflé, covered at this point, overnight and bring to room temperate the next day to finish or you could push on.

Place a small amount of butter on top of the soufflé. Place soufflé on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Increase the temperature to 425° F and continue baking for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting ready to make our next ascent (overlooked vegetables part 3)

Apparently no one likes Brussels sprouts. A survey in Britain, in 2002, ranked Brussels sprouts the most hated vegetable on that Emerald Isle. Again, I rack this up to a bad childhood experience, perhaps in a parochial school, involving nuns, rulers and detention but I digress. Brussels sprout taste awful overcooked - they release sulfur like compounds much like over cooked broccoli or cabbage (both crucifous cousins.)

I love Brussels sprouts and was looking for some fun quotes about them and found this, "the Brussels sprout is a fiber-rich nutritional powerhouse, practically throbbing with Vitamins C, A and foliates." Not to be obscene, but I don't want my food to be throbbing in my mouth while I eat (alright give yourselves a moment to giggle like naughty school girls - he said throbbing.)

This is a sure fired way to cook Brussels sprouts that everyone will love.

Roasted Brussels sprouts


Ingredients

* 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
* 2 tablespoons olive oil (
you want to use canola - good for you)
* 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Cutting board

* One gallon sized storage bag (
what ever brand is near and dear to your heart)
* Tongs
* baking tray

* CD (preferably Turnstiles by Billy Joel)


Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any discolored outer leaves. Slice them vertically through the root end. Put them in a gallon storage bag with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake until well coated.

Start the CD.

Spread them on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Sing along with Billy Joel - Oh baby, all you wanna do is dance. Shake the pan at the end of every cut for even browning.

At the end of New York State of Mind (about 17 minutes into cooking), check the sprouts - reduce heat if necessary to prevent burning. Your mind will probably wander back to seeing Billy Joel play this song just after 9/11 on the 'America: A Tribute to Heroes' concert.

OK, back to the sprouts.

The brussels sprouts need to roast for 35 to 40 minutes - Miami 2017 will have ended.

Brussels sprouts should be darkest brown, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Sprinkle with more kosher salt and serve.

No alcohol was involved in this recipe.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Making a base camp (overlooked vegetables part 2)

Now let's turn our attention to another overlooked vegetable - Fennel. Unless you've had the privilege of eating at a traditional Mediterranean family's home, you've probably never had this delicious licorice tasting vegetable (sometime known as winter celery.) It's something different and you should add it to your repertoire (and just because you're you - I'll even throw in a second recipe.)

Roasted Fennel

Ingredients

* 2 fennel bulbs (thick base of stalk)
* 2 tablespoons of oil (
canola or olive - use the olive the calorie difference isn't that great)
* Balsamic vinegar

* Kosher salt

* Pepper



Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Cutting board

* Aluminum foil

* Large baking tray

* Tongs

* Medium size mixing bowl



Instructions

Preheat oven to 350° F. (Remember, I said that you could roast these during roasting of the beets.)

Cut off the stalks and fronds of the fennel bulb (save them for another use - roast them with fish or chicken, beat unruly children with them.) Cut each fennel bulb in half vertically, slicing through the root end. Then cut each half in half, keeping the root core intact, about 1/2 inch thick slices (again OCD sufferers - 7/16 of an inch - make a mental note to send your Congressperson a stern letter about the need to adopt the metric system.) The slices may or may not stay together - that's life - don't sweat it.

Put your cut fennel slices in the mixing bowl, add your oil and season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Don't add so much salt that you give yourself high blood pressure. Toss well. (Remember these steps, we're going to come back to them for our next recipe.)

Lay out piece of fennel onto baking tray and roast for 30-35 minutes. If you have both the beets and the fennel in the oven at the same time - you deserve a drink. Halfway through the cooking time, turns the fennels pieces over. Remind yourself about the joke Saint Lawrence told during his martyrdom. Remind yourself how strange you are that you know jokes about saints roasting to death.

Roast until the fennel is cooked through and beginning to caramelize and get crispy around the ends (but don't let them burn.)

Remove from the oven and add back to the mixing bowl (the fennel is burning hot - do you think any germs have a chance. Alright, if you're going to be that way - rinse out the bowl first.) Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, if you want, toss and serve.

OK - say you don't want another roasted item for your Thanksgiving spread (I won't hold it against you), here's a simple yet very tasty salad -


Sicilian Fennel Salad

Ingredients

* 2 fennel bulbs (thick base of stalk)
* 1 medium sized juice orange (
if you can find one, a blood orange would be great)
* 1 small red onion

* 3 tablespoons of olive oil (
it's Sicilian; you have to use olive oil.)
* Kosher salt

* Pepper



Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Cutting board

* Vegetable peeler

* Tongs

* Medium size mixing bowl


Instructions

Cut off the stalks and fronds of the fennel bulb (save them for another use - roast them with fish or chicken, beat unruly children with them.) Cut each fennel bulb in half vertically, slicing through the root end. Then cut each half in half, keeping the root core intact, about 1/4 inch thick slices (this should seem like déjà vu, if you read the other fennel recipe, except for the fact that you've cut the fennel slices about 1/16 inch thinner.) The slices may or may not stay together - that's life, don't sweat it.

Peel the small red onion and slice thinly (as thin as you can without recreating Dan Aykroyd's Julia Child skit.) Set aside. And again, if raw onions bother you, soak them in ice water until you're ready to use. If raw onions really bother you, don't use them (again, I'm not in your home at the moment, what do I know.)

Now we come to what will seem like an impossible silly task but hey it's cooking. You will need to cut the segments of the orange from the orange without their skin - this is called supreming an orange (and no, you are not forming a music group with your fruit.)

This is one of the only recipes that I will suggest that you refrain from drinking (until you have been drinking and cooking for at least 30 or more years.) Shear off the top so that the orange flesh is just visible. I can't tell you how thick a slice that will be - I don't know what orange you're using - nut up (remember this is a Sicilian salad - it's a man's world.) Now cut off the same amount from the bottom so that the orange sits flat. You have a choice at this point. You can a.) cut from top to bottom curving the knife to the shape of the orange, until you've removed all of the peel and pith (white flesh) of the orange, or, if you're a nervous Nelly with a knife, b.) Use a good peeler and remove the peel and pith.

Next, cut in between the white sections, placing your knife as close to the white membrane as possible, and slicing to the core. Once you reach the core, bring the knife blade up along the opposing membrane wall and remove the segment. Repeat until you've removed all of the segments, transferring them into your mixing bowl. Set aside the orange corpse (we'll need it later.)

Put your cut fennel slices in the mixing bowl with the orange segments. Drain your onion slices, pat dry and add them into the bowl. Gently squeeze your orange corpse to extract any juice into a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of the juice, olive oil, season with kosher salt and pepper and gently toss.

Plate and serve. (At this point you deserve a drink.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making a base camp (the overlooked vegetables)

Let's talk vegetables.
You probably don't like them (maybe you do, what do I know.) You probably had a bad experience in elementary school (not with vegetables - just in school.) Well, you have to eat vegetables sometimes and Thanksgiving is as good about a time as any.

We're going to deal with two unsung vegetables - today, Beets and tomorrow, (not the world but) Fennel - that you could add to your holiday table.

Roasted Beets

Ingredients:

* 3 fist sized beets (how big is that - I don't know, how big are your fists?)
* 2 tablespoons of oil (canola or olive)
* 3 cloves of garlic
* Kosher salt
* Small red onion
* Fresh tarragon or mint leaves
* Mustard Vinaigrette
*
* Goat Cheese **

Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Cutting board

* Peeler

* Aluminum foil

* Tongs

* Medium size mixing bowl


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Scrub all beets (we'll peel them once they have baked - actually you'll peel them - I'm not with you at the moment.) Tear off six squares of aluminum foil and place three of the squares on the counter and put the others aside.

Place one beet and one clove of garlic (unpeeled) on each square. Rub the beets with oil and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. Stop thinking that you don't like beets - don't make me come to your house. Wrap the beet tightly in the foil. Wrap each of the enclosed beet packages in another square of aluminum foil.

Place the beet packages on a small baking tray. Bake for about an hour, until they are soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife (please to not do this to test if a loved one is done.) Open the packages and allow the beets to cool slightly. Be careful - there could be juices seeping out of these packages and beet juices can stain (no amount of Shout® will get them out.)

Cut your red onion into thin slices and set aside (if you find the taste of onions too strong, soak in ice water until ready to use.) There's no rest for the wicked though - you can prepare the other vegetable, fennel, while you're waiting for the beets to roast (recipe to follow.)

Slightly grease your hand (and get you minds out of the gutter - you're greasing them so you can avoid staining you hands) and remove the skin of the beets. You should be able to do this with a knife but if you're nervous handling a knife with greasy hands, use the peeler. Once you have the beets peeled, quarter them, and then slice the quarter pieces in half.

Remove the roasted garlic cloves from the packages. They should be soft enough that you can squeeze out the pulp into the mixing bowl. Add a small pinch of salt and a small drizzle of oil. Whisk together, then lick your fingers (no one is in the kitchen; go ahead - roasted garlic tastes great.) Add the sliced beets into bowl with the onions and shred either some of the tarrigon leaves or mint leaves (which ever you prefer) and toss. If you wish you can serve like this.

Or you can toss the cooked beets with a Mustardy vinaigrette* and top with goat cheese**.


I save glass jars. Not in some bizarre Howard Hughes bodily fluid sort of way but I need a perfect mixture or storage container way. I have a shelf in a closet that has been dubbed the glass museum. If you don't have that kind of space, save at least one Grey Poupon mustard jar and two spaghetti sauce jars. The mustard jar is a great size for making salad dressings and the spaghetti sauce jar is the perfect size for cocktail shaker.

* Mustardy Vinaigrette

Ingredients

* 1 heaping teaspoon grainy mustard (remember to leave the s off, you know why.)
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

* Salt and pepper



Add the mustard and the vinegar into an empty jar. Shake. Add a pinch of salt and pepper (to taste.) Add the olive oil and shake until thoroughly combined.


** Feel free to use what ever goat cheese you like (I like a fresh goat cheese rather than an aged cheese with the beets but again, it's your choice.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Advancing on our trek (Appetizers)

Since Thanksgiving is mostly about ritual and tradition, I'll share with you my family's traditional holiday dip. This is literally a blast from the 60's but then again, so am I.

My mother has recently checked out my recipes on this site. Rather than congratulate me on preserving recipes for my daughters - she began looking for errors in the recipes. So with much trepidation, I give you her recipe for Shrimp Dip (mom if you're reading this, I'm sure I got something wrong). For the rest of you, it's perfect and perhaps you have a slight clue as to the high alcohol content of my recipes.


Ingredients

1 - 10 oz. can condensed tomato soup (you know that kind - Andy Warhol painted it and until they pay me, I'm not mentioning the brand name.)
1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 - 8 oz. jar of mayonnaise
1 package of Knox Gelatin (I mentioned the brand name, sue me, I don't know any other gelatin company.)
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery

3 - 5 ounces cans of medium shrimp*
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce



Tools

* Sharp utility knife
* Dinner size folk (
not the salad folk)
* Cutting board

* Small saucepan

* Medium sized mixing bowl

* Can opener

* Medium sized sieve

* 1.5 quart Tupperware bowl (
with bumpable lid)**
* 1 large wooden spoon
* Several shots of the best vodka you have (in your freezer)
* 1 Beach Boys CD (preferably Pet Sounds)


Directions

Turn on the CD. It had better be Pet Sounds. Don't argue with me - If Sgt Pepper didn't exist, this would have been the greatest album ever made. Brian Wilson went crazy because of it. A character in Doonesbury died while listening to it. I'll come to your house and hurt you.

Cut your onion and celery into small dice like pieces. I usually don't care about these sort of things but since you aren't going to cook them, cut them fairly evenly and small (those of you suffering from OCD - 6/16 squares.) Take you're first shot of vodka. Put the onions and celery aside. Contemplate the obsessive nature of musical geniuses (think about how many different drugs Brian must have been doing at the time to name an album Pet Sounds.)

Add the cream cheese, mayo, onions and celery into the bowl and mix thoroughly. (Take a shot or not - your choice.) Heat the soup in small saucepan over a medium flame until just simmering and take off flame. Add the worcestershire and the gelatin package into the heated soup and stir vigorously (to avoid clumping.) This is called 'blooming the gelatin'. Stir for about five minutes. Let 100 flowers bloom (my mother proof read this and specifically wanted me to mention that she is not encouraging the advancement of Communism by the making of her shrimp dip. Duly noted.)

Add the tomato soup into the cream cheese mixture and combine thoroughly. Congratulate yourself that you've come this far with the recipe and have another shot. Open the cans of shrimp and drain and briefly rinse shrimp. Add to the cheese mixture and fold shrimp in until just combined, trying not to mash the shrimps up (if you do - so what, your mother isn't going to yell at you.) You should be up to the really sad part of the CD - try not to cry into the bowl. If you can't stop crying - cut your alcohol intake immediately.

Transfer to Tupperware bowl. Smooth the top and seal. Remember to 'burp' the bowl. Giggle to yourself - it's ok, you burped the bowl. Refrigerate several hours (overnight is preferable.)

To serve, remove from refrigerator and warm outside of bowl to loosen dip from side and turn out onto a serving plate. Serve with crackers (My mother prefers Ritz crackers - I like Carr's, it's your choice, she's not your mother.)

* 3 cans of the medium size shrimp equal about a pound of cooked shrimp. If you can't bring yourself to use canned shrimp - by all means use cooked shrimp. You'll need to chop the shrimp into small pieces (maybe even squirt them with a slice of lemon - again, your mother isn't looking over your shoulder.)

** You can use whatever resealable container you'd like, Tupperware didn't pay me a dime.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beginning the climb to the summit of Everest (Thanksgiving Dinner)

Alright, it's time to face your fears - Thanksgiving is coming up and you've never made dinner before. OK bunkie, let's walk through the whole thing. I promise you with a little help, it's going to be OK.

We'll start with something easy and work our way up. Cranberry Sauce. Yes, you could buy it in the store but this taste better and if you have to bring something with you to someone else's dinner, you an offer to make this (and hold your head high.)


Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

* 2 cup sugar
* 2 cup orange juice

* 2 12-ounce package Fresh Cranberries

* 1 Peeled skin of a navel orange


Tools

* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* peeler

* 1 large heavy bottom large saucepan

* 1 wooden (or metal) spoon

* measuring cup



Directions:

Peel the skin of a navel orange. Try not to get any of the white pith. Begin telling yourself Groucho Marx jokes. Start with how you shot an elephant in your pajamas. Sing, "Hooray for Captain Spaudling." Stop when you family tells you to pipe down. Cut the peels into a small dice size.

Combine sugar and juice in a large saucepan. Bring to boil (stir occasionally - remember, hot sugar - hot lava.) Add cranberries and diced peel, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cranberries are going to pop and possibly splatter. Remember all the curses you know in foreign languages (it the perfect use for them when you get burnt.) This puppy is going to boil up at some point, stir until it subsides.

Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Pour into a clean mason jar (the spaghetti sauce size jar.)

Remember if you bring this to someone's house, remind everyone that you made this - it's not store bought.


More to come.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ginger Baby Carrots


One of the problems of having popular children is they have friends. (This is mostly a problem if you have younger children - older children have an entire other set of problems that almost no amount of cooking can solve.) And their friends are going to want to come over to your house. And occasionally they are going to want to stay for dinner. Since I am not running a diner (or a prison for that matter), I have had to come up with a vegetable that even the most finicky (annoying) child will eat - Ginger Baby Carrot*.

Ingredients

* 1 1/2 cup of baby carrots
* 1/3 cup orange juice

* 2 tablespoons canola oil (
or olive oil)
* pinch of salt (
I will hurt you if you ask how much is a pinch)
* 1 finger of ginger (
about 2 inches - OCD sufferers - 1.7485 inches)
* 1 tablespoon of butter

* 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Tools

* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* 2 quart saucpan with lid

* 1 large wooden spoon or tong

* 1 shot of ice cold vodka




Directions

Turn on the radio. Any channel will do - loud enough to drown out children singing along with Miley Cyrus (or whomever your children listen to in order to drive you crazy.)

Peel the rough outer skin of the ginger. Inhale it's fragrant aroma. Imagine that some day you might go to India. But then realize the number of vaccinations you would probably need in order to travel to India. You probably really don't want dysentary anyway. Slice the peeled ginger into coin size pieces (you figure out how big that is.) Set them aside.

Add the carrots, sliced ginger, water and canola in you're on a diet (add the orange juice and olive oil if you're not.) Place your saucepan over a medium-high flame. Add a pinch of salt over the carrots and cover with lid. Tell the kids to lower their music and stop jumping on the bed.

This is an incredible important step - especially if you can't see them. They probably are jumping on the bed and you will show them that you have supernatural powers for catching them in the act. Sip the vodka to soothe your jangled nerves.

Occasionally, shake the saucepan back and forth over the heat much in the same way you would make Jiffy Pop. Wonder where you would be without Jiffy Pop. Keep an eye on your pan, it should take you about 7 minutes to cook your carrots through. If you are preparing the carrots in the diet version, turn off the heat, and put them aside until you are ready to serve.

If the butter and sugar don't frighten you, lower your heat to medium and add your tablespoon of butter to the saucepan. Swirl around and when melted, add the sugar. Stir until melted (be careful, as previously mentioned, melted sugar is as hot as lava and burns just as much.) Cook an additional 2 minutes then turn off heat and cover until ready to serve.

Yell at the children to wash up and get to the table and it is between you and your God if you have another shot before dinner.


* All of my children's friends will eat these carrots, my youngest daughter will not. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Makes a great holiday gift (hint, hint)

A good friend of mine's group, Annabouboula, are releasing their new CD this week - Immortal Water

Check out some of the cuts here. It's a makes a great holiday gift (product endorsement.)

Here are two older clips of the band: